You may have seen this clip on YouTube.
This hits home for me as someone who has been the subject of the phrase #likeagirl and as a woman who is raising two little girls. Growing up in the shooting sports with my dad, I was surrounded by people who were excited to see me on the range and enthusiastically supported my journey as a shooter. I shot like a girl because… well, I was a girl. It wasn’t until I joined the Army did the phrase turn negative.
For months, years even, I toiled away trying to improve my shooting fundamentals as the only female member of the US Army Marksmanship Unit Action Pistol Team. The rough and tough coaching methods from many of my teammates addressed their perceived root of the problem.
“You shoot like a girl.”
“Quit shooting like a girl!”
“You’ll never win if you shoot like a girl.”
Was it meant to insult or inspire? Who knows? Like any young private, I did what I was told. I spent so much time and effort trying to change my shooting style, trying to shoot like a 6 foot, 185 pound guy, that I found myself two years into my Army contract with hardly the results I wanted. It wasn’t until I spent a day shooting with Rob Leatham did that change.
Rob was on our tiny range at Fort Benning, Georgia just to hang out and shoot with buddies. I was there too because, for me, it was a training day like any other day. I remember it clearly though. I was shooting my United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) .40 cal Limited Division gun with full power, major loads. Truth be told, it was kicking my butt. My teammates were blasting away, pushing themselves to try shoot as fast and as accurately as Rob. Compared to them, my efforts seemed more suitably timed with an hourglass.
Rob noticed. I mean, how could he not? When everyone was loading mags, he took me aside. It’s been well over a decade, but what he said went something like this,
“Look, you’re a girl. You aren’t as strong as me. You’ll never be as big as me or these guys. That doesn’t mean you can’t control this gun and shoot well.”
In minutes he changed my stance and grip. Instead of trying to out muscle my gun, he showed me how to use my body to help me control recoil and ultimately shoot faster. I practiced the techniques into the side berm when my teammates ran through the course of fire we had set up. When it was my turn, I applied them. The difference was huge and Rob took the time to praise my success.
Throughout the rest of our training session I was a sponge. Rob proved an honest instructor, pointing out what I did wrong, but even more importantly, showing me ways to fix it. It was the coaching and encouragement I needed and indeed, they call Rob “The Great One” for more reasons than just his incredible list of titles.
I stopped trying to change what I couldn’t and instead began to work with what I had. The following season, in 1998, I won the ladies title at every single USPSA Area Championship I entered. There were just two divisions in USPSA back then and I narrowly missed taking the women’s category in both the sport’s Open and Limited Nationals. The next year I won ladies titles in every Area Championship I entered again, the Limited and Open USPSA Nationals and the Steel Challenge. It was a banner year, something no man or woman had accomplished in the sport. As a result, I was nominated and selected as US Army Female Athlete of the Year. I did it all shooting like a girl.
Every time I watch the #LikeaGirl YouTube clip, it hits home. When it comes to females and firearms, I love seeing more women and girls enjoying the shooting sports. Sure, we are still outnumbered by the guys most of the time, but our numbers are growing.
Shooting like a girl doesn’t mean getting kicked around by a big gun. It’s about confidence and control. We all have our reasons to shoot too, and watching fellow females gain confidence and improve their shooting skills is inspiring. The smiles and sense of fun is absolutely contagious. Get a group of women together on the range, and the term #shootlikeagirl instantly becomes something to be proud of. As it should be.